Sciatica and Sciatica Treatment Options
Sciatica is back pain caused by the irritation or compression of one of the five nerves of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica results in lower back pain, buttock pain and pain in the legs or feet. The back pain can be severe and sometimes accompanied by numbness, weakness in the muscles and difficulty in controlling or moving the legs. Sciatica is caused most often by the compression of the nerve roots branching off of the sciatic nerve and not the compression of the sciatic nerve itself, although in some cases the sciatic nerve is compressed. The compression of the lumbar spine nerve roots can be caused by a herniated spinal disc, spondyloisthesis (a condition where the vertebrae of the spinal cord can roughen, become englarged or displaced), or degenerated discs. If sciatica is caused by the compression of a lumbar nerve root it is actually considered a lumbar radiculopathy and if the compressed nerve is also inflamed it is called radiculitis.
Sciatica is not actually a diagnosis but general term used to describe a set of symptoms that are causing the irritation of the sciatic nerve and its nerve roots. The condition of sciatica is mainly caused by a dislocation of a disc putting pressure on the radicular nerve (nerve roots). Sciatica rarely causes permanent damage and while it may cause severe and disabling back pain, most of the pain is caused by inflammation and will decrease with time. The condition of sciatica does not usually require surgery because most of the pain is caused by inflammation of the surrounding tissue and a non surgical approach is taken first, involving stretching and exercise. For more severe cases where sciatica is caused by an extremely displaced disc that is causing back pain, a lumbar decompressive laminectomy can be performed to remove the portion of the disc that is causing the irritation to the nerve root.
Sciatica can go away on its own once the inflammation subsides, but if the back pain is severe and continues to persist, a decompressive laminectomy surgery is recommended and most likely will be performed. The laminectomy will remove parts of the bone or disc that is irritating the sciatic nerve or its nerve roots. The decompressive laminectomy is performed through in incision in the back and can sometimes be used in conjunction with spinal fusion surgery to provide more strength and support.